LOS ANGELES (AP) - Watchdog and activist groups are outraged by a Fox News Channel segment in which an interviewer asked people in New York’s Chinatown if he was supposed to bow to greet them, if they were selling stolen goods and if they could “take care of North Korea for us.”
Several organizations condemned humorist Jesse Watters’ piece on “The O’Reilly Factor,” calling it racist and demeaning to Asian-Americans.
“It’s 2016. We should be far beyond tired, racist stereotypes and targeting an ethnic group for humiliation and objectification on the basis of their race,” Asian American Journalists Association President Paul Cheung said in a letter to Fox and posted online. He is director of interactive and digital news production for The Associated Press.
Cheung called on Fox to apologize to the Asian-American community and asked for “an explanation for how this type of coverage will be prevented in the future.”
Watters asked people on the street about the presidential race, sought a demonstration of karate and showed footage of him getting a pedicure.
At one point in Monday’s nearly five-minute segment, an elderly woman’s silence in response to a query was paired with a clip from Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” in which Madeline Kahn shouts, “Speak, speak, why don’t you speak?!”
Gregory A. Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, criticized the report.
The coverage, including making “fun” of the Chinese elder, “played into the exoticization and status of perpetual foreigner” of the Asian-American community, Cendana said in a statement.
After the “Watters World” report concluded, Bill O’Reilly called it “gentle fun,” adding, “we’re gonna get letters, inevitably.”
On Wednesday, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation said it was outraged by the “blatant, racist and offensive stereotypes of Chinese Americans.”
“It is unconscionable that a news organization would sanction a segment that laughs at a community of people, including Watters ridiculing elderly Chinese Americans who were limited English-proficient,” the group said.
U.S. Rep. Ted W. Lieu, D-California, weighed in as well.
“Note to Bill O’Reilly and Fox News: Your recent segment mocking Asian American voters and using every conceivable stereotype was, at best, racist and, at worst, really racist. I am not ‘patient’ or ‘gentle’ nor do I ‘bow’ when I say hello or know ‘karate.’ So let me gently say this: if you are not racist at heart, then you would apologize. Immediately,” Lieu said in a statement.
Asked for a response to critics, Fox directed attention to two Twitter posts Wednesday by Watters.
“As a political humorist, the Chinatown segment was intended to be a light piece, as all Watters World segments are,” he wrote.
“My man-on-the-street interviews are meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek and I regret if anyone found offense,” Watters’ second tweet said.
Lynn Elber can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lynnelber.
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